Monday, February 12, 2007


Henry Holdship
October 26, 1833 – May 11, 1897

The name Henry Holdship belonged to two leaders of Pittsburgh, grandfather and grandson.

Henry Holdship (the elder) was a paper manufacturer. The Anchor Steam Paper Mill, owned and conducted by Henry Holdship, situated at the corner of Ross and Breckenridge Streets, was the largest west of the mountains in 1825; his son George Washington Holdship, serving as a partner with him in the paper business. Their Anchor Paper Mill issued The Farmer’s and Mechanic’s Almanac and similar almanacs that were widely distributed throughout the West as a means of advertising merchandise of particular interest to settlers there. Holdship was a director of the Pittsburgh Gas Light and Coke Company founded in 1827, which had as its purpose providing gas for lighting the city of Pittsburgh. An account of how he began in the paper business is given (below) in this post.

On June 20, 1827, Holdship’s Anchor Paper Mill served to host a gathering in honor of Henry Clay. Mr. Clay delivered an eloquent address and over 600 guests dined that evening. Henry Holdship (the elder) was an early Pittsburgh civic leader, involved in early efforts to improve transportation in and out of the city, including serving as a founding commissioner of the Pittsburgh and Coal Hill Turnpike Road in the 1820s, and the founding of the Pittsburgh Reading-Room in 1829.

Henry Holdship (the elder) was an original pew holder of Trinity Church, Pittsburgh.

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The following biographical sketch will provide greater detail. It comes from Vol. 4 History of Pittsburgh and environs, from prehistoric days to the beginning of the American Revolution, by George Thornton Fleming. 1922:

The history of the city of Pittsburgh would be incomplete indeed were space lacking for the recounting of the achievements of her sons of a generation past, and for recording fitting appreciation of their lives and service. In the number of Pittsburgh citizens who in the course of a career successful in unusual degree, found time and desire for public spirited activity, well directed and valuable, was Henry Holdship.

He came of a family of long connection with Pittsburgh, a grandson of Henry Holdship, whose active years were spent in the city during the post-Revolutionary period. His father was George W. Holdship, a leading paper manufacturer, and for many years the owner of a book store in the city. In the great fire of 1845, his entire stock, including many rare and costly volumes, was destroyed by the flames. George W. Holdship married Eliza Anne Gibson Bryan and they are the parents of Henry Holdship.

Henry Holdship was born in Pittsburgh, Oct. 26, 1833, and in Pittsburgh attended public and private schools, entering school at Lawrenceville, NJ, under the tutorship of the Rev. Joseph Travelli. His business life began in the banking house of Palmer, Hanna & Company of Pittsburgh, and after a term in this employ he and his brother Charles A. opened a bank in Decorah, Iowa. The death of his brother occurring in 1859, Mr. Holdship returned to Pittsburgh, and became secretary in the offices of his cousin, Thomas M Howe [of Hussey Howe and Co., with many S F F & H C connections], who was associated with the Pittsburgh and Boston Mining Company. His work in these connections comprised valuable and faithful service but in none of them did he find the sphere of activity for which his talents and qualifications best suited him. This he encountered in 1863 when with his brother George W. Holdship (jr.) he entered the oils fields of Newton, Pa. as a pioneer operator, and it is this line of achieved success that made his name widely known in the oil trade.

In 1865 George W. Holdship died and the firm was reorganized as Holdship and Irwin, Mr. Holdship taking into partnership his brother-in-law, Lewis Irwin.* This association continued until 1886 when ill health required Mr. Holdship to retire from the direction of its affairs, and he withdrew to private life, bearing with him the admiration and respect of his business colleagues, many of whom had witnessed his steady rise to prominence and fortune, and honored him for the splendid qualities that induced his success.

Mr. Holdship was a loyal friend of the Republican Party but it was not in the political arena that he performed his best service to his city, although men and measures of merit and worth always received his wholehearted support and the benefit of his wise influence. In the elevation of the cultural standard of Pittsburgh Mr. Holdship was an interested worker. Himself and ardent lover of art, music and literature, and a generous patron thereof, he strove to share the inspiration and enjoyment he derived fro these sources with the great body of his fellow-men, and to those ends he addressed the practical wisdom and tactful judgment that marked his every relation of life. He was one of the incorporators of the Art Society of Pittsburgh, a founder of the Pittsburgh Orchestra, and one of the chief promoters of the “May Festival” which was a one time a popular institution in the city. Mr. Holdship was a member of Christ Protestant Episcopal Church, was a generous supporter of charitable and philanthropic institutions and gave time to the social phase of life, holding membership in several clubs.

Mr. Holdship married, October 3, 1860, Maria Irwin, daughter of the late Henry and Elizabeth (Peterson) Irwin of Allegheny Pa., a descendent of an old Pennsylvania family. They were the parents of Charles Frederick, of Pittsburgh, George Irwin of Pittsburgh and Alice, who married Rev. Edward Twichell Ware, president of Atlanta University. Rev. and Mrs. Ware are the parents of Alexander Holdship and Henry Holdship Ware.

Henry Holdship died May 11, 1897. Of him one could say with St. Paul, “He had run a good race, he had finished the course.”

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Henry Holdship (the younger), as noted above, was born in Pittsburgh in 1833, the son of George Washington Holdship and Eliza Ann Gibson Bryan (Eliza was from Maryland). He married Maria Irwin, also a Pennsylvania native and together they had the following children:

Charles Frederick Holdship – born 1863
George Irwin Holdship – born 1866
Alice Holdship – born 1873

Their household establishment in the City of Allegheny in 1880 was quite elegant and supported a butler, a chamber maid and a cook.

“Mrs. Henry Holdship is decidedly musical; is a finished and brilliant performer on the piano, and thoroughly understands the science of music. She is also artistic and literary in her tastes, and what is rarer, a woman who thinks for herself and to some purpose; has opinions of her own on important subjects and the ability to express them. The family lives in a handsome residence on Lincoln Avenue, Allegheny.” (The Social Mirror, 1888, p 61).

Henry Holdship was associated with banking, mining, and oil throughout his career. He is probably best known for helping to found the Art Society of Pittsburgh and the Symphonic Society (Pittsburgh Orchestra). He was a member of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Duquesne Club.

*South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club member Lewis Irwin was Henry Holdship's business partner and brother-in-law. South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club member Dr. David Nevin Rankin was married to another of the Irwin siblings, Anne Katherine (Kate) Irwin. Through their daughter Elizabeth (Lily) Rankin who married Howard Childs, this extended family is related to South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club founder Henry Clay Frick and his wife, Adelaide Childs.

A portrait of Henry Holdship can be seen at this link:;cc=pitttext;q1=henry%20holdship;rgn=full%20text;idno=04aee9405m;didno=04aee9405m;view=image;seq=341;page=root;size=s;frm=frameset

Henry Holdship was 49 at the time of the Johnstown Flood.

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Some distingushed Holdship descendents:

Edward Twitchell Ware (born 24 Mar 1874, Atlanta, Georgia; died May 19, 1927, Claremont, CA) the son of Edmond Asa Ware, a Yale Divinity School Graduate and the founding president of Atlanta University. E T Ware was its third president. Atlanta University, founded in 1865, by the American Missionary Association with later assistance from the Freedman’s Bureau, was, before consolidation (making it now Clark Atlanta University), the nation's oldest graduate institution serving a predominantly African American student body. E T Ware was born in Atlanta, Georgia on March 24, 1874, the son of Atlanta University's first president, Edmund Asa Ware. He was elected Atlanta University's third president in 1907, serving until 1919, he died in Claremont CA and is buried in Oak Park Cemetery, Claremont, Los Angeles, CA.

Alice Holdship (Ware) (born 19 Jul 1872, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; died 1965) She was the author of several acclaimed and still produced plays on the African American expereince, including “Mighty Wind A Blowin” (1936), “Like a Flame”, “Together” and “The Freedom Bell”, 1944. She is buried along side her husband in Oak Park Cemetery, Claremont, Los Angeles, CA.

They were married 30 June 1905.

Their children:

Alexander Holdship Ware (born August 9, 1906 ; died ?)
Henry Holdship Ware (born 1908, died May 27, 1991)

ALEXANDER HOLDSHIP WARE (born 9 Aug 1906 d. ?)
(More details to follow)

HENRY HOLDSHIP WARE (born 1908, B.A., Pomona, 1932; M.A., Columbia, 1929; died May 27, 1999) an economist who founded a bartering service in Fairfax County that was copied elsewhere in the world, died of a heart attack May 21 at Reston Hospital. He lived in Reston. Dr. Ware began Useful Services Exchange in 1975, basing it on the barter concept used in his wife's business, the Vienna Swap Shop. Participants in the service, now limited largely to western Fairfax County, exchange a range of services, from dog-walking to legal help. Dr. Ware helped spread the concept elsewhere in the country and abroad. He wrote several books on bartering…
Source: “Economist Henry H. Ware, 90, Dies; Founded Fairfax Bartering Service That Was Copied Widely” Obituary from The Washington Post Date: May 27, 1999 Author, Claudia Levy.

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More distinguished Holdship descendents:

George Irwin Holdship (born 1866)
Jane Campbell Bakewell (born?)
They lived at 1175 Murry Hill Avenue in the East End.

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Charles Frederick Holdship (born 1863)
Katherine Duncan Davis (born ?)
They had the following children:
Katherine White Holdship – born 1904
Margaret Morris Holdship – born 1909

Here is their household in the 1910 census, including native state:

Holdship Charles F. 48 Pennsylvania

Holdship Katherine D. 35 Pennsylvania

Holdship Katherine W. 6 Pennsylvania

Holdship Margaret M. 10/12 Pennsylvania

In 1912 they lived at “Glen Osborne” on Beaver Road in Sewickley.

Recently at auction: Tiffany & Co. copper and silver bud vase, inscription made from printing plate used to announce a marriage "Mr. And Mrs. Charles Frederick Holdship / announce the marriage of their sister / Mrs. Helen Willard Davis / to / Mr. John Lisle / on Saturday the thirteenth of April / One thousand nine hundred and twelve / at Saint Stephen's Church / Serwickley Pennsylvania", marked on base "Tiffany & Co. Makers of copper and silver", 9 1/2" high.

In 1922 they lived at Centennial and Boundary Streets in Sewickley PA. Listed as a member of their household was Mrs. Holdship’s sister, Helen Willard Davis Lisle. Also in 1922 – The William H. Singer Memorial Research Laboratory… “At present Mr. CF Holdship is chairman and together with Rev. Doctor Maitland Alexander and Mr. DE Park represent the Hospital Board. ...”

And still in Pittsburgh in 2006:

Miss C. F. Holdship

607 Davis Lane

Sewickley, Pennsylvania 15143

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Here is an interesting account of how Henry Holdship, the elder, entered the paper business that would make his fortune:

Pittsburgh, March 26th, 1823.

WE take the liberty to inform our friends and the public generally, that R. PATTERSON & LAMBDIN have appointed us their Assignees; and as such we shall continue to keep on hand a general and exhaustive supply of B O O K S AND STATIONERY, at the old stand, (corner of Wood and Third Streets) where Rags and country produce will be received in payment as formerly. We have reduced the prices of all articles in this line of business to a cash standard.




> Assignees"The Assignees of R. Patterson & Lambdin."

Note 1: Also printed in the April 4th issue of the Gazette was the Notice of a Sheriff's Sale, ordered to dispose of the Pittsburgh properties belonging to the bankrupt firm of R. Patterson & Lambdin. Among the properties sold on Saturday, April 19th was Patterson's steam paper mill. The fact that Lambdin had dissolved his partnership with Patterson on or about Feb. 17, 1823, combined with this forced sale of the assests of the defunt firm, probably indicates that the final weeks and months of the partnership were not amicable ones. James Reid Lambdin says in his "Journal": "my brother's [in 1822] were becoming quite embarassing. Patterson & Lambdin, who were then largely engaged in the manufacture of paper... [suffered] loss without any insurance. This caused increased trouble in their pecuniary affairs. Note 2: Apparently Matthew B. Lowrie and Henry Holdship (a Lambdin family friend) either sued Patterson and Lambdin in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas late in 1822 for financial obligations incurred by the partnership, or in some other way became involved in the firm's financial affairs. The court settlement eventually left Henry Holdship as the owner of most of the partnership's assets. Holdship, in turn, appears to have engaged Robert Patterson and J. Harrison Lambdin (probably seperately) as agents in running the former partnership's paper mill and book store. Note 3: Into the midst of this unforunate set of circumstances in Pittsburgh came the Rev. Sidney Rigdon at the end of January, 1822. During the following three years of his residence in Pittsburgh, Rigdon could honestly say: "...there was no man by the name of Patterson during my residence at Pittsburgh who had a printing office... He was then acting under an agency, in the book and stationery business, and was the owner of no property of any kind, printing office, or any thing else, during the time I resided in the city."

Source: Uncle Dale's Old Mormon Articles: Pennsylvania, 1820-1839

1 comment:

Tia said...

What a fascinating history.
My ancestor was William Howard (1766-1828). There is a small snippet of information in my family history that led me to the name Holdship.
"After his wife's death, William moved to Pittsburgh, Pa. and built a paper mill on the Allegheny River in a district then known as Bayardstown. It later became the Holdship Mill on Ross St., Pittsburgh."
I would be interested to know if any information remains about when the Holdships bought the mill and whether there is any mention of the Howard family who lived in the same area and attended the same church.
Many thanks
Tia Sidey